24th September issue

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This morning one of our readers phoned up and discussed his experience of treatment. As he talked, he became increasingly frustrated when he considered the limited options that had been offered to him and to friends in the past. ‘Why is it that aftercare is so poor?’, he wanted to know. ‘Why isn’t treatment geared to long-term recovery? People just go round the system for years, without any hope of reintegrating into society and getting themselves a job. Clients don’t know they have choices: it all depends on where their DAT decides they’re going.’

His comments struck several chords with this issue. In his exploration of what helps people towards recovery, Prof David Clark (page 15) makes the point that the drug and alcohol field focuses on addiction rather than recovery: we look to treatment for a cure, rather than concentrating on making long-term life changes. Relapse rates demonstrate how unrealistic this can be – highlighted in research and by considering how residential rehabs (and criminal justice services) see the same faces time and time again. This issue’s cover story suggests that the focus can be very different if drug users are given the blocks of self-sufficiency to rebuild their lives (page 6). The San Patrignano community is an active and industrious society that turns dependency into a desire to thrive. No-one is turned away, and in turn residents are expected to earn their keep by being productive members of the community. Could it work in the UK? Prof Neil McKeganey thinks so.

On the subject of service user empowerment, we’ve teamed up with the Alliance to put together the ‘Nothing about us without us’ conference on 31 January (see opposite). It’ll be an exciting opportunity to shape future strategy and make sure service user involvement is not just three empty words. If you’re a service user or co-ordinator, please get involved!

Finally, I would like to thank Robert Skilleter, our youngest ever contributor for his article on page 10. Feedback is important in every area of this field!

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